God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy. (NLT)
This saying of Jesus can be misunderstood. He is not suggesting that our showing mercy somehow earns us mercy from him. By definition, nothing can earn us mercy: it is always a gift. If this is not what he is saying, what is Jesus getting at?
He is reminding us that if we have truly embraced the mercy we receive from him, we will inevitably show mercy to others. Similar to what he says in the Lord’s Prayer, where those who are forgiven by him will be forgiving of others.
This doesn’t mean we always show mercy: we are imperfect people who struggle to be merciful to those we would rather be rid of. But our intention, our desire, is to show mercy. After all, if God has not been harshly judgemental towards us, why should we act in such a way to others? The implied question is: “Would I want God to treat me the way I treat others?”
To be merciful is not to be “soft” on sin. Jesus is merciful yet he took human failings seriously. Enough to die for them in fact. Rather, we choose not to define our relationships with others in terms of those failings. We are not blind to them, but we choose not to see people simply as those who fail. God does not see us this way, though he is well aware of our failings.
I fail God so often, and yet he offers me mercy. Others fail me so often, I make a similar offer to them. Receivers of mercy are to be givers of mercy.